Welcome to Best of Xbox Game Pass where each week I’m going to pick out a game available on Game Pass and explain why I think it is worth playing. While I’ll certainly include some of the bigger titles available on the service, I’ll focus more on other games that you might have overlooked in the hope of leading you to a hidden gem
Charm. It’s a word I perhaps overuse and one that you’ll certainly see again throughout this article. And yet, it’s also the perfect description of this little point and click adventure from Pewter Games. This scrappy, short adventure is sweeter than a sugar-covered strawberry and more charming than a rogue that’s sunk every single experience point into charisma. As the old saying goes, good things come in small packages. At least, that’s what I like to tell myself.
The Little Acre takes place in Ireland in the ’50’s where we find single-parent Aidan and his daughter, Lily. Living in a little cottage and struggling to find work, life is already hard for Aidan, but things have gotten worse with the disappearance of his father, a man who loved to tinker and invent all manner of strange devices. Poking around his Dad’s shed, Aidan discovers a portal to a strange realm full of amazing creatures and incredible scenery.
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Doubtless, Lily is the heart and soul of The Little Acre. She’s a rambunctious ball of energy with a wooden sword, and a thirst for adventure and getting into trouble. When her dad goes missing just like her grandad she shows no fear and is more than ready to go find him on her own. I instantly adored her, probably because she reminds me of my 7-year-old niece who reckons jumping in puddles, climbing trees, fighting bad guys and punching me in the kidney is the height of life. While Lily’s voice actor does struggle a little to pull off the childish tone, you can quickly push that out of your mind and enjoy the absurdly charming oddball that is Lily.
Little Lily has a friend and ally in the form of a bewildered dog by the name of Dougal. Poor Dougal seems content to snooze the days away, but Lily has a penchant for getting into trouble and so Dougal mostly ends up having to yank her out of the way, stop shelves falling over and generally have panic attacks because his tiny ward seems intent on getting herself squashed.
Watching the interactions between Lily and Dougal is properly heart-warming, tapping into a little of that classic Disney animated vibe. In fact, the whole of The Little Acre reminds me of an animated, feel-good special, albeit a little rougher around the edges due to the small development team. The gorgeous hand-drawn art is a joy for the eyeballs, and the animations are full of life.
Probably the biggest compliment I can pay The Little Acre is that I wanted much more of it. In that brief hour or two it takes to complete this sharply written adventure you’re introduced to a gorgeous, fascinating world and a small cast of charismatic and engaging characters. Within a short span of time you’re shown something amazing and then it’s gone, leaving loads of questions in its wake. What are the strange crystals that Aidan’s dad used to open a portal to the strange realm? What happened in that realm? What happened Aidan’s wife?
The hour that The Little Acre gets just isn’t enough to give it the room to grow that it so very much deserves. In some ways, playing The Little Acre feels like grabbing a book off the shelf, opening it to a chapter mid-way through and finding an amazing world and characters. And then you excitedly flip back to the first page and find it blank. In fact, every page outside of the chapter you read is blank. A glimpse into the tantalising tale is all you get.
More than anything else, I want more Lily! And Dougal! I’d gladly play a series of point and click adventures about Lily and Dougal as they both grow and go on amazing journeys. Lily’s a badass, and she needs more time to shine.
As for the gameplay, that’s the area where The Little Acre is weakest, although that fact never undermines the sheer joyful charm that it exudes. It’s a very basic point and click title with puzzles that are a breeze to solve. And even if you manage to brain-fart yourself into a stupidity-induced mind coma there’s a hint system that will also give you the full solution if you really need it. I doubt you’ll need to resort to such desperate measure, though, because the logic behind each puzzle is easy to understand and you’ll only ever have a couple of objects in your inventory to use.
Of course, I criticised Cyanide & Happiness: Freakpocalypse recently for having simple, dull puzzles. So why is The Little Acre getting a free past? Well, it isn’t. The key difference is that Freakpocalypse’s puzzles were not only lacking any challenge, but they weren’t interesting in any other ways. The most exciting thing you did was lift a desk with a pulley. In contrast, TheLittle Acre’s puzzles are always dressed up in fun, unique ways.
Those easy, mellow puzzles also help to make The Little Acre a bite-sized, calming experience. Sure, we all love an epic-campaign, intense sequences, drama, set-pieces and brain-bending puzzles, but sometimes it’s nice to kick back with something simple, something utterly endearing, something so completely likeable that it practically seeps into your bones like the world’s nicest cancer. C’mon, Pewter Games, we need a sequel.